Christine Mcvie sadly passed away this week, at the age of 79. Much as Fleetwood Mac is celebrated in its various forms, arguably the most commercial of their albums is “Rumours”, an album that was recorded in 1976, released in 1977 and is considered not only a rock classic but also an album of finely crafted songs with stellar performances from each performer.
‘Songbird’ is one of two contributions that Christine contributes as a writer and performer and I chose it for many reasons…
It’s a stunning song, performed with her and just a piano and acoustic guitar, when you listen to it, it sounds like it’s been recorded in an empty auditorium when everyone’s gone home and it’s just her winding down at night – this is not by accident – during the recording sessions for this song the band hired Zellerbach Auditorium. To create the appropriate ambience, Ken Caillat ordered a bouquet of flowers to place on Christine’s piano. He then requested three spotlights to illuminate the flowers from above. When McVie arrived at the auditorium, the house lights were dimmed so her attention was immediately brought to the illuminated flowers on the piano.
For the recording session, 15 microphones were placed around the auditorium to capture the performance. Lindsey Buckingham strummed an acoustic guitar offstage to keep the tempo.
This is all information from the wikipedia page, and for me it just gives me chills as I sit here reading the detail that went into the recording of this.
The piano part is just beautiful and simple, it’s a beautiful ballad, Christine has her own touch when it comes to playing keyboards – one good example is her other composition – “Dreams” based around an electric piano it just hits home…
The way she accompanies herself along to her vocal, it’s wonderful.
I love that opening verse:
“For you, there’ll be no more crying
For you, the sun will be shining
And I feel that when I’m with you
It’s alright, I know it’s right.”
This was written during a painful period in the band’s history, their relationships in the band was breaking down, and it looks like Christine had found someone new, this was her love song for them. And what a love song….
Written in an era where singer/songwriters were doing some of their best work, this really stood out. Christine did not need the rest of the band for this one, and she really nailed it.
Rumour has it that the band used to close their live shows with this one, and leave her on stage with just the piano, but the crew would come and watch from the wings and you’d see grown rugged men crying just from hearing her sing this song.
You know you’ve had an impact.
As a songwriter myself, I still feel the goosebumps when I hear this song, and will always turn to it when I need inspiration.
Rest in peace Christine, and thankyou.
Words by Del Osei-Owusu